His devotion to expanding freeway-mangled Southern California's rail system -- though it'll be staggeringly expensive and won't necessarily relieve traffic -- has defined his national reputation, and put him in President Obama's good graces.
Here at home, though, Villaraigosa's promise to "make Los Angeles a global capital of clean technology" just went down the drain.
His much-publicized goal of installing a futuristic row of clean manufacturers along East Washington Boulevard was apparently so unfeasible to buyers, and costing the city so much in the meantime, that he was forced into a very unromantic sale:
According to the Los Angeles Business Journal, Culver City real-estate giant Genton Property Group, a favorite of the L.A. City Council for building chic condos on the Westside, just bought the 21-acre lot for $15.4 million.
Let's take a little looksie at what the so-called Clean Tech Corridor was supposed to look like, back when Villaraigosa, his City Council and the notorious Community Redevelopment Agency somehow thought private investors would be down to make their space-age public stunt come true.
From this...To this. However, as detailed by the Journal, no amount of green-eyed optimism could promise interested companies -- such as Santa Clara solar-panel manufacturer Applied Materials, Santa Monica electric-vehicle maker Coda Automotive Inc. and Italian rail car manufacturer AnsaldoBreda Inc. -- the profits they would need to survive.
Still, the CRA manager in charge of the corridor, Alex Paxton, maintains hope that a private company will keep the Clean Tech dream alive.
"The companies weren't looking to build out a site; they were looking for a place to put their business," said Paxton. "Now that we are up against the clock, we're doing it this way. It still gets us to (our) vision."
If the vision is still a giant mushroom UFO with blue lightning inside (see above photo), we kind of doubt that.
Embarrassingly, Villaraigosa's plan for the corridor is still posted to his website:
The Clean Tech Corridor is the cornerstone of the Mayor's vision to put Los Angeles at the forefront of the clean tech revolution and to transform the old, downtown industrial core into an incubator for green jobs, technology and the growth of LA's economy.
The Clean Tech Corridor will bring together researchers, designers and manufacturers dedicated to the development of clean technology products and solutions to climate change challenges. The Corridor will host the Clean Tech Manufacturing Center, the Clean Innovations Research Center and create the Cornfields Arroyo Seco neighborhood - a LEED community.
Genton's not taking press calls and hasn't announced a specific vision yet, but the mayor and CRA stressed in September that any business to take the spot would be required to adhere to certain environmental guidelines, like only bringing in "ecologically sustainable businesses."
However, here is huge international debate over what the hell that even means -- humankind is only beginning to explore the definition of going green. In the meantime, corporations (being corporations) meet the "ecologically sustainable" checklist in the most capital-friendly way possible, and city governments (especially ours) are notorious for skimming over Environmental Impact Report requirements when they want something bad enough.
Recycling bins, check. Healthy cafeteria food, check. Cool-looking lights with low wattage, check.
But Villaraigosa's promise was so much bigger than that.
Now, because the Community Redevelopment Agency is on the chopping block, the city cuts its losses and resorts to this last-minute sell-off -- a waste of all the time and money it took to hold design galas and involve local universities in the brainstorm.
Not to mention a disgrace to the larger green movement, which should be so much more than a checklist.